What I’m Reading: Into Africa, the Epic Adventures of Stanley & Livingstone, by Martin Dugard

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Dr. Livingstone, I presume?


I’ve known that line since I can remember, but all I ever recall knowing about it was that it was spoken by Stanley, when he came upon Livingstone in Africa. In fact, somehow I pictured him turning a corner to see Livingstone as he said it. That was it, end of story, at least for mini-me.

As many of you know, I have a love of Africa, and currently am into reading All. Things. Africa. So Into Africa, The Epic Adventures of Stanley & Livingstone, by Martin Dugard, sounded like a good addition to my reading list.

The majority of the story is set between 1866 and 1873. A more complex story than I imagined, Dugard creatively weaves the stories of British explorer David Livingstone and American journalist Henry Morton Stanley together in history, even while they were thousands of miles apart. Interestingly, other people were shown to play a key role in each of their individual lives, ultimately steering the two of them together.

Through both Livingstone’s and Stanley’s journal writings, newspaper articles from the time, a manuscript and nearly 1000 artifacts from Stanley’s travels to Africa, we see a realistic glimpse of what their personalities were each like, what they were capable of physically and emotionally, their thoughts and beliefs and how the two came to know each other. We see the Africa of the 1860s and 1870s, with all her disease, wars and horrors in many forms, including slavery:

“”We passed a woman tied by the neck to a tree and dead,” Livingstone wrote in his journal exactly three months after leaving Zanzibar. “The people of the country explained that she had been unable to keep up with the other slaves in a gang, and her master had determined that she should not become the property of anyone else if she recovered after resting for a time. I may mention here that we saw others tied up in a similar manner and one lying in the path was shot or stabbed, for she was in a pool of blood.””

As well as her utter beauty. Writing of Tabora, a primary Arab enclave in East Africa:

“Set among dun-colored hills in the heart of the East African countryside, refreshed by clear streams and pockets of forest, surrounded by fruit orchards and well-tended fields of wheat, onions, and cucumbers, it possessed a beauty and abundance of resources that made it the African equivalent of an oasis.”

The book is written with such great detail that it took me a while to catch the rhythm. But once I did, I was thoroughly hooked. I found myself completely engrossed in this true, and larger-than-life story, as well as the book. From the Epilogue:

“The saga of Stanley and Livingstone sparked an unlikely turning point in history. Journalism’s growing power, America’s ascendance and Britain’s eventual eclipse, one generation of explorer giving way to another, and the opening of Africa – all were either foreshadowed or came about as a result of Livingstone’s love affair with Africa and Stanley’s unlikely march to find him. Not surprisingly, American journalists of the era even voted Stanley’s discovery of Livingstone “the story of the century.” “

I highly recommend this book!

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